Monday, May 05, 2008

Trulia Critics - Right or Wrong?

Today Glen Roberts at Inman News reported on a debate that was stirred up by Galen Ward of Estately (there's some link juice Galen...). Galen asked why does Trulia show up in search results above the original source. His answer:

"In this case, two reasons: the original source doesn’t even display the address on the page (dude - MLS rules are stupid, but they usually let you display your own property’s address at least - you gotta fix that!). But the much more common reason is that Trulia blocks Google from following their links."

So I agree the first reason is brutal. The real estate industry needs to help themselves. Some brokers and agent use solutions such as the Point2 where property listing have their own search engine friendly URL that can be indexed (such as this example from Jay Thompson's site).

But the second reason I neither find offensive nor accurate. As Galen explains, Trulia uses 302 redirects that prevents the flow of link juice to the source site. It helps their pages maintain authority. I don't find it offensive because these sort of things are common with any general online advertising arrangement. If you complete a link exchange with another site, you purchase a follow or nofollow link. Nofollows are designed to send traffic, not search authority. has been doing this sort of thing forever, they rank way higher than Trulia, so why the stink now? (see the link to from this listing on So secondly, I don't find the evaluation completely accurate because I don't think it's the main reason Trulia ranks higher. I have a couple of points here:

The NoFollow Reason

Rudy seems to admit SEO is reason for the nofollows. It's debatable in my mind whether or not it would be detrimental for Trulia to link out in their search results. Linking out to relevant sites can help a website's trust. Rudy also states, "Let’s be honest, most broker or agent websites would not rank better than they do currently if we removed the nofollow in the outbound links (99.9% of listings pages have no page rank or page rank 1)". That's true for the most part, but links from main search result pages like Denver (PR 4), would see value - I just couldn't let that one go. But while Galen suggests the redirects are an designed to block PR from flowing to other sites, the specific intent of the method. Rather than a practice to prevent other sites from receiving value, it's design is to help large sites flow page rank to deeper levels in their site hierarchy. By controlling this flow of link juice, Trulia's primary motivation I suggest is to push page rank deeper through their site.

Real Reason's for Truila's Search Success

More importantly, these nofollows (or 302 redirects) are not the main reason for Trulia's search dominance. There's a few big ones in my opinion:

1. First they've done some great marketing and promotion now that's resulted in a PR 7. That's and achievement and not many local sites can top that. Even RE/ is only a PR 6. This has nothing to do with redirects or nofollows, and everything to do with a lot of buzz and exposure.

2. Secondly, they have great site architecture for SEO. The page titles, content and heading tags all have the right keyword terms. It's consistent whether you are looking for Colorado, Denver or Bear Valley Denver real estate. VERY few real estate practitioners do a good job of this.

3. While there are other reasons, the third and last one I'll mention is that they have a widget strategy - a much more brilliant and interesting thing to talk about than the 302 redirects. Trulia has built several useful widgets that relevant real estate sites like Jay's can use. You'll see at the bottom of the widget there are 2 built in links. One link goes to the Trulia home page, helping out that PR 7. The second link is a deep link into Trulia. Since Jay's site is a Denver real estate site, the Trulia link goes to their Denver page.

So now Trulia has thousands of relevant links form real estate websites linking to their home page and deep linking into their site. Note that there isn't a nofollow on those widget links (of course)! Good for Trulia! It's a brilliant strategy. They have to build tools that add a lot of value (or perceived value) to execute on such a strategy. Also note that they've done some solid business development work and have authoritative sites like RIS Media using their widget's and linking back to Trulia.

If I was a real estate agent or broker, I probably wouldn't use the widget's and give Trulia that link. And if you consider their nofollow policy on their listings and result pages, it's not really a fair link exchange if you're using a widget :-) But my bottom line is - it's all negotiable! If brokers care about SEO for their own site, they can negotiate a removal of the nofollow. If it's not negotiable, a broker doesn't have to send their listings.